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TONY ALLEN & HUGH MASEKELA

“Hugh had a special way of playing... The more I heard him, the more I wanted to record with him”

H u g o

G l e n d i n n i n g

&

G a v i n

R o d g e r s

Fela’s commune and his elderly mother was thrown from a window, causing fatal injuries. Allen decided it was time to get out and left Fela in 1979 to start his own band.

Masekela, meanwhile paid tribute to Fela and Allen’s Afrobeat with a majestic cover of Africa 70’s ‘Lady’ that only made Allen more convinced that they were destined to work together. “Hugh had a special way of playing,” he says. “Nobody sounds like him. He was mixing swing and modern jazz with South African melodies and it was a unique sound. The more I heard him, the more I wanted to record with him.”

By 1984, Allen was living in London and Masekela was also around. “I proposed doing something together,” Allen says. “Same story. It didn’t happen because we were both doing our own thing. But every time our paths crossed at festivals around the world we would talk about it. Eventually we were in the same place at the same time. It just happened to be a couple of decades later.”

To be strictly accurate, it was more than a quarter of a century later – and it took the timely intervention of World Circuit label owner Nick Gold to make it happen.

Fast forward to 2010. Allen is recording his solo album Secret Agent for World Circuit, which Gold is producing, at Livingston Studios in North London. He casually mentions that he and Masekela have been discussing making an album together for decades. Not surprisingly, Gold jumps at the idea of a summit meeting between two of the most revered

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ISSUE 157 › SONGLINES 23

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